Nov 302005
 
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Seattle Seahawks 24 – New York Giants 21 (OT)

Game Overview: The Giants have no one to blame but themselves. What could have turned out to be a potentially outstanding season, with home field in the playoffs, is now slipping away. With the devastating losses to the Vikings and Seahawks, the Giants have lost their room for error. The Giants are now in a dogfight with the Dallas Cowboys for the division title, and if they don’t win the division, there is a good chance they will not make the playoffs. Keep in mind that the Giants have only won one road game this year and that after the Dallas game, three of the last four games are on the road against teams very capable of defeating the Giants.

While PK Jay Feely deserves the bulk of the blame for this loss, there is plenty of responsibility to go around. There were 16 penalties enforced. There were 11 infractions called on offense (nine false start penalties and two holding penalties – one of which was declined) and six infractions on special teams (one of which was declined). That’s simply stupid and undisciplined football. Head Coach Tom Coughlin vowed to clean up the penalties and fix the special teams, but the Giants are now the third-most heavily penalized team in the NFL and they have lost two of their last three games due to special teams play.

The Giants are not smart or disciplined. They have problems winning on the road. And they have a disturbing tendency to lose close football games – something that predates the Coughlin-era, but has continued under his regime. They may have a lot of talent, but they are not playing playoff-caliber football. If they don’t turn it around quickly, they will be sitting at home watching the playoffs on TV while teams with less talent are still playing.

Special Teams: The Giants’ special teams are losing games once again. The Giants have now lost two games this season due to their special teams – that’s 18 percent of the games played thus far. While the 54-yard effort by Feely in overtime was not a high-percentage kick, he should have nailed either the 40- or 45-yarder. Oddly, he hit his more difficult 43-yard field goal that was into a tricky wind. Now the Giants have to worry about a kicker who may wilt in the clutch. That doesn’t bode well with a lot of tough opponents remaining in a tight divisional race. Feely also squibbed two more kickoffs this weekend (both into the wind). (Side note: How about this for a coincidence? The last time the Giants played in Seattle, they lost after PK Brad Daluiso missed a potential game-winning kick after a dramatic comeback led by QB Dave Brown).

Then there are the penalties. Six special teams penalties in the first half! Will Allen, Chase Blackburn, Eric Moore, and Brandon Jacobs were all called for holding on returns. Frank Walker committed two false start penalties out of the punting formation (I honestly could not see any movement from Walker on the second one). The holding calls on Blackburn and Moore were particularly harmful as they erased an 81-yard kickoff return by Chad Morton (who for some reason caused himself to stumble and not reach the end zone). Morton returned four kickoffs for a 25.3 yards-per-return average. He returned six punts for 8.3 yards-per-return average. The Giants did not do a good job of blocking the opposing gunner on a couple of punt returns (with Walker doing a terrible job on one punt, and Will Allen and James Butler being unable to effectively double-team one guy on another).

P Jeff Feagles continues his downward spiral, averaging only 37.3 yards on six punts. Punt and kickoff coverage was outstanding. David Tyree (four tackles) was particularly active. However, Tyree did blow a chance to down a punt inside the 5-yard line.

Offense: Early in the season, the Giants were often getting on top of teams by scoring first. Against the Seahawks, a disturbing trend continued where the Giants were unable to mount a scoring drive until well into the contest (the second quarter). The Giants have not scored a point in the first quarter for three games in a row. One thing I would suggest is that the Giants play more of a spread, hurry-up offense. Not only does Manning seem to do well in this offense, but by splitting out Shockey and/or Barber (plus possibly Tim Carter), most opposing defenses cannot match-up.

One of the big reasons for the offensive woes is the penalties. As Coughlin said, “I start working on these stats and I said, ’490 yards and 21 points. Wait a minute, what’s this all about? It doesn’t make any sense.’ Well, yeah stick in there that seven of the 15 drives in the regulation and overtime had a penalty and the fact that the offensive teams had a percentage somewhere near 70 to 75 percent don’t overcome penalties within a drive to score points and you see what happened.”

The Giants could not generate any points on their first four possessions of the first half. Negative running plays, penalties, a dropped pass, and the officials were a problem. In the second half, the Giants, the Giants had the ball seven times, but scored only on two possessions (and one of these was set up by a turnover on a “drive” where the Giants did not pick up a single first down). The Giants only had two good drives in the second half, the touchdown drive to tie the game and the drive to set up the attempted game-winning field goal. Negative running plays, penalties drops, inconsistent pass protection, and a turnover were issues.

Side Note on the Officiating: Just terrible. Two of the false start penalties called against the Giants should have in fact been penalties on Seattle as the defensive lineman clearly entered the neutral zone to feign the start of the play (that is a penalty). You also had one ref knocking down a pass intended for Shockey on third down. And then there was the play where the momentum shifted when Toomer was apparently knocked off his route, but the penalty was not called and the pass was intercepted.

By the way, Seattle Coach Holmgren lied about the officials saying they made a mistake on the two Giants’ touchdowns. “The report that the NFL informed the Seahawks of officiating mistakes on two Giants touchdown receptions is inaccurate,” NFL Vice President of Public relations Greg Aiello said. “Our officiating department never discussed with the Seahawks the Amani Toomer touchdown reception, which was properly called. The Jeremy Shockey touchdown catch at the end of the first half was not overturned, because the referee determined that there was insufficient visual evidence to reverse the call.”

Quarterback: What’s great about Eli Manning (29-of-53 for 344 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) is that he clearly has a knack for leading his team from behind late in the game to tie a game or take a lead. This is how legends are made. But Eli needs to get his offense to generate more points earlier in the contest if the Giants are going to make the playoffs down the stretch. On Sunday, Manning demonstrated pretty good pocket presence and improvised a bit such as his unorthodox toss to Barber for nine yards when the pocket was collapsing. He made a number of clutch throws on both touchdown drives. Manning is starting to look off defenders more and use a pump fake to draw the coverage away. The downside is that his deep passes still are off the mark such as his deep shot to Burress near the end of the first quarter. And one of the Giants’ “sacks” occurred when the ball slipped out of Manning’s hand and was fortunately recovered by David Diehl.

A big turning point in the game was his deep pass to Toomer that was nowhere near the receiver and intercepted. The ball was returned from the 4-yard line to the 44-yard line and the Seahawks scored six plays after this, completely shifting the momentum in the game. FOX never showed a replay of what happened downfield, but Coughlin said Toomer was clearly pushed off his route. “What do you want me to say? Nobody called it,” said Coughlin. “If he had fallen down, they probably would have called it. It’s 15 to 20 yards down the field and they’re trying to knock him out of bounds. (As) far as I know, after five (yards), you’re not supposed to touch him.”

However, there was another badly overthrown pass that should have been intercepted, but was dropped. Also, as good as he was late in the fourth quarter and in overtime, he was way high on a pass to Shockey right after Barber’s long 49-yard run on the Giants’ last possession in overtime.

Wide Receivers: A good day for Burress (6 catches for 109 yards) and Toomer (6 catches for 62 yards and a touchdown). However, the untimely drops are still hurting such as when Burress dropped a third-down pass over the middle in the first quarter. And while Burress came up big late in the game and in overtime with catches of 11 and 23 yards – both being huge receptions in terms of significance, he also dropped a slant pass right before Feely’s last miss. Plaxico does a nice job of snagging the ball out of the air on what I believe are intentionally high passes from Manning. Burress was flagged with one of the 11 false start penalties.

Toomer’s touchdown reception was astounding, especially given the situation. Despite being badly interfered with (not called), he somehow managed to catch a pass with a defender draped all over him AND miraculously get both his feet inbounds. Toomer has made some of the best catches of his career this season, and this one was probably the best.

The receivers did a nice job of blocking on running plays.

Tight Ends: Jeremy Shockey (10 catches for 127 yards and a touchdown) clearly was playing hurt and played like a warrior. My only negative comment on him is the same thing I said with respect to the receivers…the untimely drops are hurting. Shockey dropped a 3rd-and-9 pass right after the turnover early in the third quarter and he couldn’t handle a 3rd-and-2 pass from Manning early in the fourth quarter. Shockey came up big on the first touchdown drive when he caught a 10-yard pass on 3rd-and-3; made a twisting, 24-yard reception down to the 7-yard line; and then caught the 7-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-goal. Shockey was an impact player on the Giants’ game-tying drive. He caught a 17-yard pass on 2-and-4, a huge 13-yard pass on 3rd-and-10, and then caught the 2-point conversion to tie the game. On the last drive in regulation, his 8-yard reception moved the Giants closer to field goal range.

Visanthe Shiancoe couldn’t make a block on DE Grant Wistrom on one Barber run that was limited to a 1-yard gain. But I spotted him making good block on another run that picked up seven yards.

Running Backs: Barber (26 carries for 151 yards – a 5.8 yards-per-carry average) out-performed Shaun Alexander, which is saying a lot. What did hurt some of the drives, however, were negative-yardage runs that put the Giants in a hole. In the first half, Barber carried the ball 12 times for 45 yards (a 3.8 yard average). His runs went for 15, 3, -1, 8, 4, -2, 2, 2, 1, 3, 7, and 3 yards. In other words, only four of his 12 runs picked up four yards or more. His 15-yarder was a big run coming off of the goal line. His 8-yarder was a nice cutback run and he followed that up with a tough, 4-yard run for a first down. The bulk of his productivity came in the second half and overtime as he carried the ball 14 times for 106 yards (7.6 average). His runs went for 5, -2, 1, 20, 7, 2, 7, 3, 4, 6, 3, -3, 49, and 4 yards. In other words, eight of his 14 runs picked up four yards or more. Tiki’s back-to-back runs for 27 yards were unfortunately wasted in the third quarter with the interception of Manning’s pass. His 49-yard run on the last possession in overtime should have led to a victory.

Barber was outstanding on his blitz pick-ups. But he did drop one pass in overtime.

Jim Finn really has stepped it up as a lead blocker this year for Tiki. He had a number of excellent, key blocks at the point-of-attack. He also caught two passes for 19 yards, including a 13-yarder that helped to set up a 39-yard field goal.

Offensive Line: The tragedy of this game for the offensive line is that if you take away the penalties, this group played a very strong game. While pass protection was inconsistent at times, the line only gave up one sack (the other was caused by Manning) and Barber was able to gain 151 yards rushing.

But you can’t take away the penalties. Petitgout was called for five false starts; Diehl three. But on one of Petitgout’s false starts and one of Diehl’s, a Seattle defender caused the penalty by moving into the neutral zone (these should have been penalties on Seattle). The net effect of all of this was that Petitgout should have been flagged with four false starts and Diehl two. There is no excuse for this high number of penalties. Yes the crowd was loud, but I have never seen a game where two individuals were called for so many mental mistake penalties. Particularly damning was the false start by Petitgout on the first drive in overtime. Feely’s 54-yard field goal was just short – if that penalty does not occur, the Giants most likely win the game. In addition to the false starts, there was a holding penalty on Diehl. McKenzie was also flagged for holding on a play where he gave up the lone sack and this penalty was declined.

There was too much pressure on Manning at times, but that will happen when you call 56 pass plays (counting the three QB scrambles). O’Hara, who played hurt, gave up a pressure on a stunt that led to an incompletion. He gave up another pressure on the play where Shockey dropped the ball. Snee gave up a couple of pressures, including one on the play where the ball slipped out of Manning’s hand (a nice effort by Diehl to recover the football). But Diehl also gave up a first half pressure on an incomplete pass. Petitgout got beat to the outside by the end on a play where Manning’s arm was hit just as he threw. The worst was the play where Manning was intercepted. A Seattle tackle beat the double-team block by O’Hara and Diehl to nail Manning as he threw, and Snee was also beaten on this play by the other tackle. As mentioned, McKenzie gave up a sack – this was on a defensive tackle stunt. On the game-tying drive, Manning was almost sacked as Petitgout was confused by a stunt and the defensive tackle got to the quarterback.

There were some breakdowns in the running game too. In regulation, Snee missed a block that led to a 2-yard loss as did McKenzie on another play that lost two yards. McKenzie missed his block on an overtime run by Barber that lost three yards.

Defense: Seattle, the #1 ranked offense in terms of yardage coming into the game, had 16 offensive possessions – a huge number. But the Giants forced nine three-and-outs or better (i.e., turnovers). Nevertheless, the four scoring drives were obviously costly: 3 plays, 76 yards for a touchdown; 6 plays, 56 yards for a touchdown; 13 plays, 80 yards, for a touchdown; and 8 plays for 47 yards and the game-winning field goal. To their credit, the defense played well enough in overtime to win the game. And Tim Lewis continued to call a very aggressive game in overtime and not play it safe.

Defensive Line: The defensive line played a very strong game. The star of the group was DE Osi Umenyiora (8 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble). Surprisingly, Umenyiora was a handful for the best left tackle in football, Walter Jones. There were not only the two sacks – one being an outside rush where he caused a fumble, the other a power rush. There were also a number of pressures and Umenyiora caused a costly holding penalty against Jones late in regulation. Umenyiora was very good at the point-of-attack against the run as well. It was a tremendous performance against a top-notch opponent.

While the Seahawks left the left tackle all alone with Umenyiora, Michael Strahan (6 tackles) was seeing regular double- and sometimes triple-team blocking. While he had no sacks, he got a fair amount of pass pressure, did a nice job of staying at home on boots, was aggressive chasing plays down from the backside, and was pretty tough at the point-of-attack. Two of his pass rushes caused holding penalties to be called against the right tackle.

DT Kendrick Clancy (7 tackles) may have played his best game as a Giant. He was very tough against the run in the middle of the line and got in a high number of tackles near or behind the line of scrimmage. The Seahawks had problems moving him out. DT Fred Robbins (1 tackle) was not as active, but he did cause one holding penalty. DT Damane Duckett saw some action for the first time this year.

DE Justin Tuck (1 tackle) saw some snaps at end as well as at defensive tackle – the latter being in pass-rushing situations. It was pressure by Tuck that led to the ill-advised throw by Hasselbeck on Brent Alexander’s interception.

Linebackers: This group deserves a lot of credit not only for keeping Shaun Alexander under wraps for much of the game, but also covering Alexander and a quality tight end in the passing game. MLB Antonio Pierce (5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass defense) had the biggest impact. He forced Alexander to fumble early in the first quarter and flashed on the blitz, including picking a huge sack in overtime. Pierce also made a big hit on the fullback late in the first half and knocked away a 3rd-and-3 pass intended for the tight end in the third quarter.

Nick Greisen (2 tackles) and Carlos Emmons (4 tackles) were tough against the run. Emmons in particular held the outside corner on a few runs. However, Emmons did get pinched inside on Alexander’s 20-yard gain in the third quarter on Seattle’s second touchdown drive.

Defensive Backs: If you take away the bad plays on the four scoring drives, this group did great. But you can’t. It was these breakdowns that led to the 24 points that Seattle needed to win the game.

The guy who had the roughest game was CB Corey Webster (10 tackles). Webster got beat for 14 yards on 3rd-an-5 on a non-scoring drive in the first quarter. Then on Seattle’s first touchdown drive, he was beat by WR Joe Jurevicius for an 11-yard gain and, despite having perfect position on the post pattern, out-fought for the ball by Jurevicius for the 35-yard touchdown. “Going up I thought I was going to pick it,” said Webster. “I thought I was in great position to make a play and he just came right over me and got the ball. You hate to give one up like that. That could have been the difference in the game.”

Then Webster held his opponent quiet until very late in the third quarter, when he was flagged with a defensive holding penalty that offset an offensive holding penalty. Two plays later, he made a great tackle in the flat against the fullback to prevent a first down on 3rd-and-5. But Webster had a very bad series on Seattle’s last touchdown drive of the game. He gave up an 11-yard gain to Jurevicius as he allowed the completion and then missed the tackle. Two plays later, Webster was too playing too far off on a 9-yard completion to WR D.J. Hackett. Toward the end of this drive, Seattle was facing a 3rd-and-11 from the Giants’ 14-yard line. Allowing the short completion in front of him, Webster failed to make the tackle five yards short of the first down marker, enabling a 4th-and-inches situation where Seattle scored. And it was Webster who got burned on the 38-yard completion in overtime that set up the winning field goal. “That was just a miscommunication,” Webster said. “We (Webster and Gibril Wilson) were in a zone coverage and we both could have been a little closer.”

CB Curtis Deloatch got beat for a 16-yard touchdown by Jurevicius. “The goal-line play to (Joe) Jurevicius, which is what I call a ‘Q’ route, we’re outside in on a ‘Q’ route, how do you not defend that?” asked Coughlin. Deloatch also allowed a 20-yard completion to Jurevicius on 3rd-and-7 on the Seahawks’ last touchdown drive when he badly missed the tackle along the sidelines.

CB Will Allen (9 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 1 pass defense) played the best of the corners. He made a big play when he stripped WR Bobby Engram of the football and recovered the fumble. But Allen got caught too far inside on Alexander’s 20-yard run on the second touchdown drive. And Allen gave up a huge 19-yard completion on 3rd-and-7 on the Seahawks’ last touchdown drive. Allen had great deep coverage on Jurevicius on a fly pattern in overtime, but could not come down with the interception. He made a real nice play in run defense in overtime, preventing a potential big gain and holding Alexander to one yard.

CB Frank Walker saw some playing time.

FS Brent Alexander (4 tackles, 1 interception) committed a very costly 25-yard pass interference penalty on Seattle’s first touchdown drive. Alexander set up the Giants’ second field goal of the game when he intercepted Hasselbeck (it’s too bad that Alexander couldn’t have kept his feet here as he had some running room).

SS Gibril Wilson (7 tackles) did well for the most part. He flashed as a run defender and on the blitz. However, he couldn’t wrap up Alexander on 4th-and-inches play where the back scored. And he was late to help out Webster deep on the 38-yard completion in overtime that set up the game-winning field goal.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks, November 27, 2005)
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Eric Kennedy

Founder and owner of BigBlueInteractive.com, which is now entering its 20th season. Follow Eric on Twitter @BigBlueInteract.

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